Captain Chaos rules in Region One!!! 17

Wrap you mind around the following:

1) Two Principals resign just weeks before the start of a school year 2 times in three years

2) The Athletic Director resigns this year one month before the school year

3) The teachers that were laid off, and rehired in the region this summer all resigned from their positions this summer

4) A technology person in Region One, who just received a big pay raise resigns two weeks before the start of school

5) The Superintendent is being sued by her executive secretary for battery and freedom of speech violations

6) The Assistant Superintendent is suing a Region One Board of Education member for doing her job

7) It took four budget votes for the board of education to finally see it was not about money, but then they  cut the iPads from

the budget anyway (again, but who is counting?)

8) The Assistant Superintendent goes “rogue” and will not join with the Superintendent in cutting the  final year

off her new contract, and donate  it back to a program for the students at the high school

9) There is no leadership on the board, there is no leadership in the administration, and now there is no leadership in place at the highest level

at the high school

As the old question used to say…..”Is this anyway to run a railroad?”

NO!

Our children, our parents, our grandparents, our brothers, our sisters, and our teachers deserve better.

Do you really want to endorse this activity with a yes vote this coming Tuesday? IS this behavior really going to be rewarded with a yes vote? Really?

17 comments

  1. Who are all these people that resigned? I am sure many of us know some of the people, but this list is getting longer by he day. Would it be possible to name these people?

  2. Every single one of the high school teachers (4) who lost their job due to what the superintendent “labeled” as downsizing and who signed a contract at one of the elementary schools have since resigned their elementary school position and taken a job elsewhere. One of guidance counselors at the high school resigned and took a position elsewhere as did the combination history teacher/athletic director. The art position at the high school, which was restored after the first budget defeat is now vacant as that person, as I understand is pregnant and moving out of the area. The principal at the high school has resigned effective immediately (!) and taken a middle school position in Bristol. The head IT person at the high school resigned and took a job elsewhere. In the elementary schools a middle school teacher has resigned in North Canaan, the PE teacher in Sharon and I believe that Salisbury saw the resignation of a 6th grade teacher. All of these resignations, I think, have happened since the end of school and I’m not sure that this list is even complete! Amazing!

    • I say “horray” to these employees who got the opportunity to get out of a bad situation. This situation was not caused by the administration, but by the voters who keep voting the budget down in order to get the current administration to resign. This is foolishness!!

      I was an employee for Region I for 27 years and I have seen a number of superintendents come and go. The region seems to have had a problem with the last 3 superintendents and their administration. “Why” I ask. Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at the Board and your representatives. This is where the “chaos’ starts, especially with a certain one representing Falls Village.

      Even though I am not a resident of the region anymore, I urge you, as a voter, to get your facts correctly and from reliable sources before you defeat the budget again. Perhaps you may want to talk to the above mentioned people who resigned and ask them what motivated them to leave the District.

      The old saying, “Be careful for what you wish for” should certainly be applied here.

      • Carolyn…a response to your opinion.

        Your 1st opinion: I say “horray” to these employees who got the opportunity to get out of a bad situation. This situation was not caused by the administration, but by the voters who keep voting the budget down in order to get the current administration to resign. This is foolishness!!

        Our answer: We did get the opinion of three of the four teachers who were laid off, then rehired and then left the region anyway….to say they were unhappy with the administration would be an understatement. Foolishness? When 62 percent of the vote is against a budget, and not for budgetary reasons, its not foolish.

        Your 2nd opinion: The region seems to have had a problem with the last 3 superintendents and their administration. “Why” I ask. Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at the Board and your representatives. This is where the “chaos’ starts, especially with a certain one representing Falls Village.

        Our answer: “Muff” left the region after a normal length term as Superintendent, John left, after a current member of the Region 1 Administration opened up a can of worms, gave out information to a few people, and then watched as it unfolded and they then got to “climb the ladder” of success in Region 1. They should have been “very careful of what they wished for”.

        Your 3rd opinion: Even though I am not a resident of the region anymore, I urge you, as a voter, to get your facts correctly and from reliable sources before you defeat the budget again. Perhaps you may want to talk to the above mentioned people who resigned and ask them what motivated them to leave the District.

        Our answer: We have, in private with both the former Principal and Vice-Principal who left two years ago, with three of the teachers, with a host of former teachers and administrators who have worked under this current administration, with non-certified personnel who work with this current administration, with former “respected, long term employees”, of the Central Office. The story they tell is quite convincing. HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANYONE recently?

        The motivation for leaving this district? Everyone has their own. But for you to imply that in the past three years, two high school principals, one high school vice-principal, one athletic director, one network administrator all left the district just weeks before the start of a new school year is the fault of voters, is not only absurd, but uninformed and ignorant of the current facts. You are correct about one thing though, it’s not just the administration, it’s also the board. A board that has seen a majority block controlled by the administration, and a board and administration that is not capable of leading, but only bullying.

        Carolyn, it seems that you have conveniently ignored these VERY PUBLIC facts:

        1- Two Principals resign just weeks before the start of a school year 2 times in three years

        2- The Athletic Director resigns this year one month before the school year

        3- The teachers that were laid off, and rehired in the region this summer all resigned from their positions this summer

        4- A technology person in Region One, who just received a big pay raise resigns two weeks before the start of school

        5- The Superintendent is being sued by her executive secretary for battery and freedom of speech violations

        6- The Assistant Superintendent is suing a Region One Board of Education member for doing her job

        7- It took four budget votes for the board of education to finally see it was not about money, but then they cut the iPads from the budget anyway (again, but who is counting?)

        8-The Assistant Superintendent goes “rogue” and will not join with the Superintendent n cutting the final year of her new contract, and donate it back to a program for the students at the high school

        9-There is no leadership on the board, there is no leadership in the administration, and now there is no leadership in place at the highest level at the high school once again.

        I suggest you watch the videos of this past years Region One Board Meetings in full (they are available here http://www.youtube.com/user/MMilesWHDD?feature=mhee) and see a ballet of dysfunction with the administration and the core block of three on the board. Oh, and by the way, Falls Village owes a debit of gratitude to Gale for having the courage to stand up for the taxpayers in her town.

        I suggest you look this up in the dictionary, on second thought, I will just post it here for you:

        Definition of IGNORANCE: the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness

        Say hello to Michelle for me.

  3. I agree with the comment from the region one reporter. There is a lot going on with the board and administration that most people don’t even know about. There are lots of lies being told to the public in order to try to sway voters to vote yes so that the chaos that is going on will continue. Board members calling voters “dumb, stupid, ignorant, etc.” is incredibly disrespectful especially coming from the board. Having talked to almost all of the people who have left in the past 3 years, it has nothing to do with the voters, it is due to administration and board members being beyond controlling, abusive and threatening. This board has messed up big time and the students are the ones who will feel the full force blow but that does not mean that we should pass the budget, because if it is passed, there will be an even larger blow to the students to continue to have liars making the decisions of their school.
    And I personally thank Gale for standing up for what she believed in and not backing down and being forced to say what other board members tried to bully her into saying. She is the reason that the board is mad, because she exposed some of the lies and illegal moves that board members have been making. Thank you Gale!

  4. Marshall was being “cutesy” when he responded to Carolyn Lomax—but the fact is that Carolyn’s daughter is Michelle Curtiss, who works in the Central Office. I worked very well for many years with Carolyn and have the utmost respect for her. I continue to work with Michelle and feel the same way about her.

    Sorry, but I do not agree with Carolyn’s view of the situation. I have worked with nine superintendents. We have never had a situation similar to the current one.

    Ed Epstein

  5. Carolyn, you are obviously looking out for Michelle, your daughter’s interest by getting in the good graces of the superintendent, her boss. You have blatantly ignored the facts attesting to the superintendent’s misbehavior and the controversy she herself has caused! Do you know that the administration lied to the Board and the public at the April 2012 Public Budget Hearing concerning the management of the superintendent’s the Board’s paid tax sheltered annuity? Probably, the administration did not tell the full truth to CT Teachers Retirement Board either. In my opinion, the superintendent who deliberately deceives the Board, the public and possibly CTRB in order to pad her retirement base must step down. Gale Toensing is a courageous and intelligent person who is doing her job as a Board member with no private interest.

    Choo Singer

    • Choo, obviously you must be having a bad day! You have known me for many years and you know that my opinions are my opinions only. Michelle is a highly respected employee of Central Office and I certainly do not have to look out for her interests and for you to imply this is disrespectful to both of us.

      Marshall, a question for you. It appears that the main goals of voting the budget down consist of 2 objectives: 1) to force the resignation of the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent and 2) to force the resignation of some Board members. How much per referendum is this costing each town?

      • The purpose of the referendum is to show both the board and the administration that the taxpayers want and deserve to be heard, and listened to. The purpose of the referendum is not force the board to resign, the way they have acted over the past year they should have resigned themselves. As for the cost of the referendums that is built into the school budget, by the way, as it turns out, the money that has been cut off the budget far outweighs what the referendums have cost, by about 9-1, a simple thank you will suffice. As for the administrators, they also are paid by the taxpayers and should be more responsive.

  6. Attributing the recent chaos in Region One to central office administration alone is an oversimplification. This is not to say that they didn’t play a role in the teacher and administrator resignations that HVRHS is experiencing this summer. Conversations I have had with teachers suggest that one of them definitely played a role. Still, it is important to keep in mind that:

    1. the majority of teacher departures are not due to resignations, but to staffing cuts. The superintendent absolutely supported these cuts at the first budget workshop, but make no mistake, they were the building principal’s reductions. It was a staffing plan he developed and vehemently defended in both public session and private conversations. Time and again he maintained that he simply didn’t have students to put in front of these teachers were their positions reinstated. [Incidentally, the average class sizes the public was presented in meeting after meeting haven proven inaccurate. Check the numbers. They are, in many cases, eye-popping.] Ms. Toensing was the only member of the board to recommend a gradual staffing reduction. She was right to do so.

    2. the recently-resigned athletic director had for some time aspired for an administrative position, which at one point he sought in Region One. It is no surprise he pursued such an opportunity elsewhere when it presented itself.

    3. if, as a new guidance counselor at Housatonic, I watched four teachers with anywhere from 1 to 7 years of experience have their positions eliminated, despite the fact that there was no change in enrollment, I would seek employment in another district as well.

    4. of the four “young” teachers who had their positions eliminated, two were offered positions teaching middle school elsewhere in Region One. That they opted to accept jobs in other districts is shocking only to those who are not high school teachers. Teachers are not interchangeable cogs in the machinery. If you are trained to teach in a high school, experienced teaching high school students, and are comfortable teaching at the high school level, a middle school position in Region One is going to be less appealing than a high school position elsewhere. Particularly when you consider that…

    5. one of the teachers who was cut from the high school, offered a position at a Region One middle school, and subsequently took a job elsewhere will be making nearly $17,000 more next year. Anyone who thinks staying in Region One, at a grade level other than the one in which you were hired to teach, is worth 17 grand needs to be introduced to reality, promptly.

    6. given how poorly Power School was implemented at the high school, no one should be surprised that anyone associated with the implementation of Power School has sought employment elsewhere. Want to know your son or daughter’s GPA? Take a number. Want it to be an accurate GPA? Take two.

    7. two consecutive principals resigning just weeks before the opening of school? Scandalous? Not when you consider how long the most recent principal spent in the districts where he was previously employed. Look it up.

    8. were I a second year principal at Housatonic, and you, the taxpayers of Region One, voted down my budget four times in a row, I would likely give you the metaphoric bird a few weeks before the opening of school as well.

    9. this principal, however, was clearly above such pettiness. In an email to the high school faculty, he indicated his departure was a family matter. Why wouldn’t we take him at his word. At least he had the decency to provide a reason for his departure, unlike his predecessor.

    10. …speaking of whom. If you think a lot of teachers have left Housatonic this year, consider how many left during the last principal’s tenure. That exodus went wholly unacknowledged by people who should have known better.

    People are rightfully upset with the state of Region One, and the recently released CAPT scores aren’t likely to improve matters much. But there is a good deal to be proud of at Housatonic, and many of the of people there have dedicated the entirety professional lives to making it a better place. It’s important that we preserve the good of the school and lend our support to whomever it is that will lead the high school in the upcoming year. New school years signal new beginnings. Let’s not overlook the opportunity that presents.

  7. To: Anonymous August 17, 2013 @ 9:51 PM

    1. All teacher departures are due to resignations. While I agree generally with your comments regarding the four teachers at the high school who lost their jobs due to staff reduction, the fact remains that all accepted and signed a contract for a job at one of the elementary schools and after doing so continued to look elsewhere. I don’t blame any of them for continuing to look for a high school position. It appears that there was an ultimatum from one of the central office administrators that each were apparently given about taking the job in the district immediately or there would be no job to take. My position about others leaving differs from yours. My guess is that with the exception of a few, most would have not been looking for other positions if not for the lack of educational leadership and the dysfunction of the majority of members of the Board of Education and ABC Committee who seem to think that they “work” for the superintendent instead of the other way around and must protect her and her assistant at all costs.

    2. You are incorrect about the origination of the staff reductions and when the plan was presented to the high school board. That plan was presented at the last budget workshop the third week in March, a week and a half before the public hearing, not at the first budget workshop which was in the late fall of 2012. Look at the proceedings of that March meeting on YouTube. You will see that the Superintendent begins that meeting with a fairly long statement about “right-sizing” the staff at the high school and then turns the meeting over to Mr. Harnett. The first words out of his mouth are that he was asked to get the numbers/information. In fact, he says that several times. At the end of his presentation, he make an impassioned plea to the Board to consider not making these reductions and cites the fact that ours is a comprehensive high school, how these reductions will negatively effect the students and a number of other points. You are right though about his defense of the plan because within 24 hours, when he and Sam Herrick made a presentation to the North Canaan Board of Finance, he completely embraces a plan that the night before he had grave reservations about. There doesn’t seem to be any rational explanation for the change in heart unless he experienced some pressure to reverse his stance. The whole plan is especially disturbing because as I understand it, department heads were not brought into the conversation to determine exactly how these reductions would directly effect students, a fatal mistake it seems to me. Additionally, I was told that the effected teachers were told before the department heads even knew of the reduction plan thus putting those department heads in an untenable situation. Further, they only knew of the plans about a day in advance of Mr. Harnett’s presentation to the Board. You are also correct about something else. Mr. Harnett was not totally transparent when he indicated that all classes offered in the 2012-2013 school year would be offered in the 2013-2014 school year. While on the face of it that statement is true, what he neglected to tell the Board was that the number of students who wanted some of those classes far exceeded what could be accommodated with one class section. Further, in the plan he presented he was willing to have large classes overall. Those numbers in many cases far exceed the estimates he gave the Board. Those large numbers are especially a detriment in terms of the writing piece of the English classes and I would think, could certainly effect other classes adversely as well.

    3. It is no secret that Mr. Harnett was applying for other jobs as early as March, maybe even earlier. Using the failure of the budget as an excuse for him seeking other employment is really bogus, since he had begun searching far in advance of even the first vote.

    4. I was surprised at the statement that Mr. Harnett e-mailed high school faculty about his resignation. I happened to be speaking to a staff member on Saturday morning and there had been no e-mailed received by this person as of that time. So that indicates to me that either the e-mail was selective to certain people or it was e-mailed after that time, which was 72 hours after everyone knew of his resignation. As for his reason – well, it seems to me that saying that it was a family matter isn’t really very much an explanation at all.

    5. I don’t think it’s fair to compare this resignation with that of the previous principal. It’s quite clear from the Pinkpank Report that it is very likely that the circumstances of that resignation were quite different and more troubling. It has been spelled out here in Marshall’s blog and in your comments how many folks have left just this year. You have not indicated how many left last year and there were a number as I recall. In fairness, if you were going to make an assertion as to how many left during the previous principal’s tenure, it would be only fair to give the readers the numbers for an unbiased comparison.

    6. No one should be under the impression that those of us who have expressed concerns are not supportive of the faculty and staff at the high school. For some members of the Board and the top central office administrators to continually state otherwise is nothing more than a lie and an attempt to divert attention from the core problem. The local newspapers, the alumni association and media outlets have done a great job of promoting the wonderful things that happen at the high school and the implication otherwise is unfortunate.

    • As someone who saw firsthand the mistreatment of several of the teachers impacted by budget cuts, it’s no surprise that they sought employment elsewhere. For the two teachers who were offered positions elsewhere in the district, they were forced to “keep quiet” about their offers for several weeks, despite the fact that they hadn’t signed any formal contract. And when their contracts were ready and those teachers had not signed, they were, as indicated earlier in this thread, given an ultimatum by the assist superintendent about signing them or subsequently losing those positions. Prior to this ultimatum, the day to day activities of those teachers were significantly disrupted by members of the administration who attempted to seek them out (sometimes during class) and question them about their decisions regarding their future employment. Had these candidates been hired from outside of the district, they would not have been continuously bothered.

      It’s unfortunate about what happened to those teachers, considering all of them were young and could have possibly spent their careers at HVRHS. Two of them had 4+ years of experience at HVRHS and made significant contributions to the school. The students and the school community as a whole have been impacted, but at this point, we need to move on as best we can. There are still many amazing teachers at the high school and initiatives that have the potential to turn things around, given the right leadership.

  8. Another interesting thing to note in Mr. Harnett’s resignation that was not precisely mentioned here was the information given both in the daily newspaper and in the Lakeville Journal’s on-line article. Mr. Harnett, apparently, over the last decade or so, has never stayed in any administrative position for very long as he’s been in Seymour, New Britain, Torrington, Berlin, at Housatonic and now Bristol over that length of time. That seems like a pattern to me so perhaps as implied earlier in these postings no one should be surprised at his departure.

    In addition to the students not being able to subscribe to the classes he/she may want I’m also hearing that there are serious conflicts between some advanced courses and kids being able to participate in band and other arts related classes. Generally, from what I understand, this situation rarely happens. I hope that someone at the high school can straighten this around before school starts!

  9. To: Anonymous, August 18th @3:13 AM

    Thanks for such a civil and thoughtful response, particularly at so late an hour! Here’s a (hopefully) respectful response to a few points you made.

    “It appears that there was an ultimatum from one of the central office administrators that each were apparently given about taking the job in the district immediately or there would be no job to take.”

    This is absolutely true. It came in the form of an email that was circulated among small circles of the faculty. It was offensive and, as I indicated before, certainly played a role in at least two teachers who had signed with the elementary schools taking positions elsewhere.

    As for the other departures, there’s not much to say. I knew those teachers. They were young and, as such, not particularly interested in the politics of the region. They were assured by their principal that they had jobs next year. A weekend passed and all of that changed. While my chronology is likely wrong, I was also present at the workshop where the Superintendent mentioned “right-sizing.” I would not, however, call the principal’s an impassioned plea to keep those teachers on staff. From my perspective he was attempting to save face for some of the persons in attendance that night. Why? Because earlier in the day he informed one of the teachers whose jobs was eliminated that he would not be putting their position forward for reduction. Then, just a few hours later, he reneged on that promise. Is it possible that pressure from on high caused him to make an abrupt about face? Of course. As the leader of the high school, however, it was his responsibility to do what’s best for the students. If he didn’t think the staffing cuts were appropriate, he should have argued that point at every subsequent hearing and budget meeting (the months to follow have certainly proven that he would have had public support had he taken a stand). Instead, he argued, with increasing belligerence, that there were not enough students to put in front of these teachers and that he would have nothing for them to do. Everything you mentioned about section sizes and class capacity is true, and will grow increasingly so in the first weeks of school. Had the principal in any way, shape, or form involved department chairpersons in the process before moving ahead with the cuts (and, as you rightly point out, notifying these teachers that they were being eliminated) staffing and class sizes would look much better aligned with the needs (and initiatives) of the school.

    Since my post (and your reply) the principal’s full letter of resignation has been published. I think it is safe to say that, while he was clearly looking for some time beforehand, the defeated budgets certainly played a role. Obviously it was about more than these two factors alone, and I did not mean to given the impression that it was only about budget defeats.

    “As for his reason – well, it seems to me that saying that it was a family matter isn’t really very much an explanation at all.”

    True. A quick Google search, though, will reveal that it is the reason he used in past departures. And that full letter of resignation, again, singles out public acrimony and the conduct of some board members. No sense speculating as to who they are, and certainly no point launching a costly investigation into the matter. With that being said, why was it necessary to hire Mr. Pingpank for an investigation into the departure of two administrators who provided no reason whatsoever for their leaving, but wholly unnecessary to do so when this administrator cited, in very specific terms, the conduct of board officials and members of the public who “didn’t understand” what he was trying to accomplish?

    “In all fairness, if you were going to make an assertion as to how many left during the previous principal’s tenure, it would be only fair to give the readers the numbers for an unbiased comparison.”

    Twenty two teachers and staff members, many with long and respected careers, left during the last principal’s tenure. This number was provided the board in public session, shortly after the then principal and assistant principal announced their departures. Again, the lack of concern on the board’s part was shameful.

    “The local newspapers…and media outlets have done a great job of promoting the wonderful things that happen at the high school…”

    Much truer with one of the local papers than it is any of the others.

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